Aylsham Parish Church is trialling the use of a live voting smartphone app during sermons to help engage the congregation.
Worshippers at Aylsham Parish Church are being asked to take their phones to services and use their handsets to answer questions which are displayed on a projector screen.
They can also rate hymns they like or dislike to help make future services more enjoyable, and the app has also been used to display a “word cloud” of things the congregation is praying for.
The more people type a particular word, the larger that word is displayed on the screen.
The Revd Canon Andrew Beane is the first vicar in Britain to incorporate the online, interactive presentation platform Mentimeter into his sermons as a way of engaging with his congregation.
“Here in this church, we love technology. Mentimeter has given us an opportunity to be much more interactive in our worship. Sometimes you can ask a question and people are shy; but by using the app, everybody joins in.”
“I would like to think it’s pioneering. We’re holding on to the traditional but embracing new technology to make it more relevant to society today.”
The church already offers its congregation free internet access through a scheme called WiSpire, and has TripAdvisor, Facebook and Twitter pages. It has used the voting app in three services to date and plans do so at future special events.
“We’ve used it during sermons to explore issues together, and we’ve used the word-cloud function during prayers, which is utterly moving – a visual representation of our prayers appears on the screen as people are praying.”
He said it had not brought extra people into the church, but encouraged greater interaction between older and younger members of the congregation.
He added that the congregation are “very generous in what they embrace”.
Johnny Warström, CEO & Co-Founder of Mentimeter, commented;
"This combination of Mentimeter technology and the church sermon really is a match made in heaven. Our platform is all about making presentations stand out and so it’s fascinating to see Andrew use our technology to give a voice to his congregation and help them think deeper about the questions he is asking.
"Technology is meant to empower and enrich our everyday experiences, and helping people to connect with their spiritual teachings feels like a hugely positive adaptation of our platform."
Questions from last Sunday’s service ranged from “Who are you praying for this Advent?” (with responses including ‘staff of the NHS’, ‘Yemen’, and ‘the lonely and the homeless’), to “When do you think Christmas starts?”.
The app is more commonly used in boardrooms of companies such as Microsoft, McKinsey, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and allows a presenter to ask a group of people questions before answers are collated via smartphone in real-time and displayed.
Andrew said he is considering asking his congregation “How was my vicaring?” via the app.
"Sometimes people will say ‘Oh, thank you, vicar’ and you don’t always get that honest opinion. This time people can say ‘I found that really challenging or difficult’."
"It’s also so intergenerational: it empowers young people, and allows older people opportunities to learn new things. For us, Mentimeter is brilliant in terms ensuring that everybody feels part of the worship. We have lots of other ideas how we can use it!”
He said he has already had inquiries from other churches about the technology.